Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lucio Fulci's A Cat in the Brain (a.k.a. Nightmare Concert) (1990)

Title: A Cat in the Brain (1990)

Director: Lucio Fulci


I guess horror directors tend to worry a lot about how people perceive them. Many of them might be worried that people think they are demented psychos looking to bring their gory images to life. When in reality most of the time, horror directors are just mild mannered, educated, well versed human beings. I guess this film was Lucio Fulcis way of saying "I aint a criminal or a killer, Im just a regular guy who lives making horror films!"

Story goes something like this: Lucio Fulci (playing himself) is trying to direct his latest horror film. He is having trouble doing it because every where he looks and everything he does reminds him of some gory horror moment from one of his films. So he is constantly tormented by visions of gory mayhem. He will be doing some every day chore and whamo! some gory death will pop into his brain. He goes looking for psychiatric help, to see if he can calm down these horrific nightmares. Will Fulci start killing people just like his characters do in his movies?

While some people say that this is Fulcis 8 1/2, I really wouldnt go that far. Maybe in premise and themes, but obviously not in an artistic level, not in a quality level and certainly not in its acting and writing. This is after all, not Fulcis best film. This was really Fulci directing a film during his last days on this earth, literally. Id say its a low budget gory version of  8 1/2. A Cat in the Brain does have some elements you would find in a  Federico Fellini film, but ultimately, they are nothing alike. For example, Fellini had a fascination with women. His adoration for beautiful women was evident in all of his films. In 8 1/2 he has a whole sequence in which he mentally revisits all the women that have ever been a part of his life, and in the end decides to stay with his wife, and deletes all these women from his mind. Fellinis love for women was also evident with the extremely beautiful actresses he always chose for his films, Anita Eckberg being one of the first to pop to my mind, but she wasnt alone, there were many other extremely beautiful women in Fellinis films. Fulci does the samething, but he does his own sleazy version of it. While Fellini never showed any female nudity (that I can recall) he simply admired women from an aesthetic and psychological angle, Fulci goes into a more sexual potrayal of women. By this I mean, he has a lot of nudity in this film! Not only that, he has the movie end with him accompanied by a beautiful woman going on a boat ride with him in the sunset! Comparing Fulci with Fellini because of this film, just isnt right. They are two very different directors.

Still, its interesting to see Fulci doing such a personal film. And even more interesting to see him playing himself in this movie. The horror director trying to deal with the gore and violence that he sees everyday on his films. Apparently, after a while, making these kinds of movies can get to you and this is Fulcis way of saying "this shit aint easy on a day to day basis!" A Cat in the Brain is similar to Clive Barkers Nightbreed because of its premise. Fulci goes to his shrink to get some help from him, to see if his shrink can help him deal with the nightmarish images that keep popping up into his brain, but same as Nightbreed (spoilers ahead) its the shrink who decides to do the killing! (end of Spoilers) Now this is a more reasonable comparison then the Fellini one. I agree Barker and Fulci would defenetly play in the same ballpark. Both Fulci and Barker love extreme gore and shock.

Unfortunately, inspite of the movie having an interesting premise (that of Fulci going slightly coo-koo from making so many gory horror movies) the movie kind of falls flat after a while because it becomes redundant. Okay, I get this idea that Fulci is having gory images flashed into his brain from time to time, and that its driving him nuts. But unfortunately the film goes on and on in a loop showing Fulci doing everyday normal things, and then showing a gory death. Fulci might be chopping up some tomatoes, and suddenly he'll think his chopping off someones head, things like that. But the movie goes on and on this way, without really getting any plot line going or anything. His shrink keeps following around, but even this side story is resolved very quickly and in a very unsatasfying manner. So the movie kind of becomes monotonous after a while.

I mean, dont get me wrong, the gory scenes are awesome, and fun to watch. And they are very extreme. One of the death sequences in the film has a girl being stabbed to death in a shower, which was sort of the gory graphic version of Hitchcocks shower scene. Psycho's shower scene is very effective, but it isnt graphic in nature at all! So this was Fulci saying, heres my version of it! I understand this film has moments where it shows its influenced by Hitchcocks films, but saying that Fulci has perfected suspense film with A Cat in the Brain was an overstatement.

The deaths are plenty, and they are graphic, gore fans should be pleased with this one.  Some of the deaths are really deaths from other films with Fulcis wrap around story in between. Some of the goriest moments come from other directors horror films. These are Italian horror film directors that Fulci apparently endorses, so he decided to include clips from their movies in his. The clips included in the film come from the following films:

The Ghosts of Sodom (1988) (directed by Lucio Fulci)

Dont be Afraid of Aunt Martha (1988) (directed by Mario Bianchi)

Touch of Death (1988) (directed by Lucio Fulci this one is on dvd!)

Bloody Psycho (1989) (directed by Leandro Luchetti)

Escape from Death (1989) (directed by Enzo Millioni)

Massacre (1989) (directed by Andrea Bianchi)

Hansel and Gretel (1989) (directed by Giovanni Simonelli)

All in all, not a very deep film. Though its a personal film and Fulci analizes himself and how his films affect his psyche, the film didn really make the best of its premise and became redundant and dull story wise. Gore wise you'll have a good time, but story wise you' ll be wanting a bit more meat.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5


Mr. Fiendish said...

No arguments, this movie is bad. But even with it's faults and obvious use of stock footage I really enjoy it, it's pretty gory and Fulci's insane acting is hilarious, so it never gets any boring. And in the end, isn't that the biggest movie sin, to be boring?

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, its a sin that Fulci has been guilty of quite a few times. Ever see "The Psychic"? Wow, now there was a boring movie! Until the last 20 or so minutes...it didnt even TRY to pick up its pace or show something interesting.


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